SocialGiver

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The third in a series of lesson materials

If you’re looking for audio resources featuring a wider variety of accents than is offered in most coursebooks, then YouTube is the place to go. This is the third in our series of five free downloadable lesson plans and worksheets based on YouTube clips, aimed at inspiring teachers to expose students to the full range of English accents in the world.

The lessons are suitable for Pre-intermediate level classes and above, although the audio materials could be used with Elementary classes by adapting the tasks. The discussion questions related to accents and pronunciation could also be done in students’ first language if these are too challenging at their level. The materials could be used with adult or teen classes.

SocialGiver

SocialGiver is a social enterprise based in Thailand. The founder, Arch Wongchindawest is a One Young World Ambassador. In this 2 minute video, he explains how SocialGiver works and he talks about why One Young World is important.

The lesson outline

  1. Students discuss what they think a social enterprise is.
  2. Students complete a short gapped paragraph about the speaker’s background.
  3. Students listen and answer a gist question, and then true or false questions.
  4. Students discuss whether SocialGiver is a good idea, and what kind of social enterprise they would set up in their own community.
  5. Finally, students discuss whether they found the (Thai L1) speaker’s  pronunciation clear and easy to understand. The aim is to raise students’ awareness that speakers with a different accent to your own can still be easy to understand, even if you are not familiar with that accent.

You can download the student worksheet here and the teacher’s notes here.

More links

The One Young World Summit is an annual event for young leaders aged 18 to 30 from around the world who are passionate about causes like the environment, poverty, education, and human rights. The website features a gallery of links to YouTube clips of talks by speakers at the summit last year in Bangkok. Given the diversity of the speakers’ backgrounds, the site provides an excellent library of interesting audio resources featuring a wide range of accents. However, with topics like global warming and tackling corruption, the language level is quite high. If you have a high level class, check out these videos:

katybannernew

Coming soon to Fortaleza…

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ELFpron’s Laura Patsko is presenting in Brazil next month! If you’re going to be at the 11th ABCI Conference in Fortaleza, don’t miss Laura’s plenary, entitled “Bad rabbits and mouse traps: Making sense of pronunciation for Brazilian students”.

[Update, Sept 2016: video of this presentation now available here.)

Here’s the full abstract from the ABCI website:

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 17.07.55

Hope to see you there!

laurabannernew

Materials writing and ELF

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I’m currently taking the iTDi course on materials writing with Kath Bilsborough. We took a vote on whether authentic materials needed to come from a native speaker, and the result was that the group is overwhelmingly in favour of using materials from a range of sources, not just those written ‘by native speakers for native-speaker consumption’ (the definition of authentic materials being put forward for discussion). Since Kath pointed the group in my direction for more details about this topic, here is an attempt to clarify some of the issues and provide a bit of background…

The issue that we have been trying to address here at ELFpron for the past three years is the lack of listening texts featuring a range of accents beyond native speaker accents.

We focus on speaking and listening because…

  1. This is what our students seemed to have most difficulty with when it comes to variation.
  2. In speaking and listening, it is often more instantly identifiable where someone comes from based on their accent than in writing. Therefore, the native vs. non-native speaker issue becomes more relevant.
  3. When you codify language in a written form, it is easier to refer to a ‘standard’. As much as some people would like there to be a standard when it comes to spoken English, the reality is much messier.

So, why don’t coursebooks feature a wider range of accents?

  1. As mentioned in point 3 above, some people might feel that the messy nature of the scattered English language does not make it easy to package into a neat, tidy coursebook. (I believe otherwise, which is why I am currently designing my own website and online course with resources for learners interested in International English. It will be going live very shortly – so watch this space, and thanks in advance to fellow iTDi course participants for feedback on the materials!).
  2. Publishers are naturally conservative. They tend to follow trends and avoid taking too many risks (with good reason, given how long and expensive the publishing process is). The demand has to come from the consumers, i.e. schools, students and teachers, but the problem is…
  3. That creates a vicious circle; teachers and students cannot demand something if they do not know what that something is. Students say things like “Teacher, I want to sound British” because they believe that is how they should sound. Why? Because teachers and coursebooks suggest that is how they should sound, not necessarily explicitly, but that is the message that comes across by using such a limited range of accents, and also by teaching things like weak forms and linking in productive exercises, e.g. drilling these features and using words like ‘correct’, ‘mistake’, or ‘good pronunciation’ – as if these are a) how everyone speaks everywhere in the world, and b) as if things like weak forms and linking will help students in their speaking. It is exactly those types of pronunciation features that students complain they find difficult to understand when they listen to some native speaker accents. So why would they want to make themselves sound more difficult to understand? And why would teachers want to make their students sound more difficult to understand?

Here are some suggested answers…

  1. Maybe the student does not know any different – see point 3 above about the vicious circle. In my experience, those same students who have said they wanted to ‘sound British’ (whatever that means, given the huge amount of accent variation within the UK alone) did not feel the same way after their awareness had been raised about the variety of English in the world, and after we discussed accent and identity.
  2. Maybe the student worries that people will have a negative perception of their accent and discriminate against them. I understand this feeling, on a very personal level. But I would argue that the solution is not to perpetuate accent discrimination by maintaining the status quo as a materials writer. I was horribly bullied at primary school after moving from the south of England to further up north in England because my accent was different. ELFpron co-author, Laura Patsko, is also passionate about this subject on a personal level, having moved from the USA to the UK as a child. But do you think my teachers turned to me and said that my pronunciation was ‘not correct’ and that what I needed to do was to try to sound more like them, perhaps drilling the phrases the way I ‘should’ be saying them in front of the other children? Or do you think they tried to encourage the other children to be more tolerant, and took the opportunity to speak to them about diversity? Those teachers might not have succeeded in their attempts to bring the other children round (after two years of bullying, I was moved to another school where people seemed more accepting), but just because they ‘failed’, does it mean those teachers should have opted for the first solution? Accent is a sensitive topic, not only because people’s identity is wrapped up in it, but because accent discrimination is real. People are disadvantaged in the workplace if there is prejudice surrounding someone’s accent –  not just in the English language teaching industry. Do we want to ‘feed into’ that system as materials writers?
  3. Maybe the teacher feels that teaching pronunciation features like linking and weak forms productively can help students receptively, and there may be other carefully considered reasons for making such choices. In which case, great. We are all in favour of responding to students’ needs by making informed choices; it’s the lack of awareness surrounding those choices that we have been trying to work on for the past three years by speaking at conferences and writing about ELF. That said, if you are teaching things like weak forms to help students receptively, just be aware of the language you use, e.g. avoid terms like ‘good’, ‘correct’, and ‘mistake’.
  4. Maybe the teacher (native or non-native speaker) went through the same process of being made to feel their own accent was not acceptable or in some way deficient, and so their students, in turn, inherit this deference to native speakers in the case of non-native speakers, and deference to a perceived ‘standard’ like RP in the case of native speakers with a regional accent (who, if they become English teachers, will continue to perpetuate the myth with their own students, and so on).
  5. Maybe the teacher is a native speaker who confuses the fact that they do, personally, ‘own’ English, i.e. it is his or her own first language, with the fact that it is also the world’s lingua franca, i.e. English is spoken everywhere, which means everyone ‘owns’ it, which means it does not ‘belong’ to any one geographical place. Indeed, it might be for that very reason that the native speaker teacher in question has a job in English language teaching – not necessarily just because they are a native speaker (although there’s plenty of that discrimination going on, as we all know), but because the need for English language teachers would not be there on such a huge scale if English were not the world’s lingua franca. It’s remarkable that some materials writers even question the existence of the concept of English being used as a lingua franca (yes, ELF – English as a lingua franca – refers to the way English is used; it is not a variety of English, as some people mistakenly believe) when those people have a job that depends on there being such a demand for English, precisely because it is the world’s lingua franca.
  6. Maybe the teacher in question is under external pressures, e.g. to prepare students for an exam which requires students to speak in a certain way. There is definitely much work to be done in the field of assessment if we are to promote accent tolerance.
  7. Maybe the student wants to change their accent in order to integrate within a specific speech community, e.g. they are going to live, study, or work in the UK or with British people. Of course they should have the option of adapting their pronunciation to fit in, if that is what they want. But students are rarely given this choice. It is usually assumed that people want to sound like a native speaker, whether that is relevant or not. You only need to look through the endless videos on YouTube about ‘improving your accent’, ‘getting rid of your accent’, or ‘reducing your accent’. Those terms don’t even make sense – everyone has an accent; you can only swap your accent for another one, not get rid of it. It’s just a matter of who you are speaking with, e.g. a Canadian in their home city speaking to someone else from that city is not perceived to have an accent. But if they travel to a different city in Canada, they may be perceived to have an accent (an accent from their home city). If they travel to another country, they may be perceived to have an accent (probably a Canadian accent). They could only ‘reduce’ their accent in the sense that they could try and sound more like the people in the place where they currently are. But with English this makes little sense because English is mostly used as a lingua franca, e.g. between a Japanese person and a German person, perhaps at a conference in Poland. In this situation, what does it mean to ‘reduce’ their accent?
  8. What people can and, we would argue should, focus on is speaking intelligibly. But how can we know what makes English intelligible? See our post about the Lingua Franca Core for this. Ultimately, though, more research does need to be done to establish what makes English intelligible. The great thing about the iTDi course is we have a group of 40+ teachers who might be interested in getting involved in research in this area. We are already planning to collaborate by going through our coursebooks to collect information about the range of accents featured in the main coursebooks. If you would also like to help with this, please get in touch in the comments below.

So, if you are a teacher making  your own listening materials, e.g. using clips from YouTube, what questions can you ask yourself to choose your audio?

  1. What accents are my students most likely going to need to understand? For example, my students in Thailand will probably speak to people from other ASEAN countries, like Malaysia. Can you ask your students about who they usually speak English with (or expect to in the future)? If they are young learners, can you ask their parents or someone else?
  2. What accents are they most likely to have difficulty understanding? These are likely to be accents that are the most different from their own and the accents they are least familiar with.
  3. Which speakers could be useful role models for my students? While it is helpful to expose students to a range of accents they might not be familiar with, it can also be beneficial to use speakers they identify with and can aspire to sound like, e.g. a proficient, intelligible Thai speaker could be a role model for Thai students.
  4. If you cannot find relevant audio online, can you ask someone to record something for you? If so, don’t forget to share your audio as we would all love to benefit from it!

If you are a materials writer creating listening scripts for a publisher which will be read by actors, you might have less control. So what can you do?

  1. At least raise the issue of accent diversity with your editor; the more people who ask about it, the more likely they are to perceive a need, and hopefully respond to that need.
  2. At least ensure that the topics are generic enough that they do not perpetuate the myth that English ‘belongs’ to the UK / the USA etc.
  3. Contribute your skills elsewhere if you can find the time! If you are a skilled materials writer, can you help move the industry forwards by publishing some materials for free that do feature a wider range of accents? There are materials here on this site, I am also launching another site soon aimed directly at learners, and hopefully we might have some materials from the iTDi course to share with you too!

Any other suggestions? Share your ideas in the comments below.

katybannernew

Visiting students’ perspectives on China and India

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The second in a series of lesson materials

If you’re looking for audio resources featuring a wider variety of accents than is offered in most coursebooks, then YouTube is the place to go. This is the second in our series of five free downloadable lesson plans and worksheets based on YouTube clips, aimed at inspiring teachers to expose students to the full range of English accents in the world.

The lessons are suitable for Pre-intermediate level classes and above, although the audio materials could be used with Elementary classes by adapting the tasks. The discussion questions related to accents and pronunciation could also be done in students’ first language if these are too challenging at their level. The materials could be used with adult or teen classes.

Visiting students’ perspectives on China and India

In this 2 minute BBC video, Chinese students talk about living in India, and Indian students talk about living in China.

The Chinese students say that:

  • Indian people help each other a lot.
  • Indian people don’t worry about being late.
  • Indian cities are less developed than they imagined.

The Indian students say that:

  • China is safe for travelling.
  • Chinese food is oily.
  • China’s economic growth is amazing.
  • There are a lot of skyscrapers in China.

The lesson outline

  1. Students discuss what they know about China and India.
  2. Students listen and answer a gist question.
  3. Students listen again and complete gapped sentences.
  4. Students discuss their own experiences and preferences related to travel.
  5. Finally, students listen again and focus on the students’ accents. They discuss questions aimed at raising their awareness of: a) the variety of different accents in the world, and b) the responsibility of the listener to develop their ability to understand different accents.

You can download the student worksheet here and the teacher’s notes here.

More links

Other videos on YouTube featuring Chinese or Indian speakers:

katybannernew

Ouissal’s tips for learning English

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The first in a series of lesson materials

If you’re looking for audio resources featuring a wider variety of accents than is offered in most coursebooks, then YouTube is the place to go. This is the first in our series of five free downloadable lesson plans and worksheets based on YouTube clips, aimed at inspiring teachers to expose students to the full range of English accents in the world.

The lessons are suitable for Pre-intermediate level classes and above, although the audio materials could be used with Elementary classes by adapting the tasks. The discussion questions related to accents and pronunciation could also be done in students’ first language if these are too challenging at their level. The materials could be used with adult or teen classes.

Ouissal – a Moroccan speaker of English

In this 5 minute video, 10-year-old Ouissal from Morocco gives 5 tips for learning English:

  • watch cartoons and movies
  • talk with people in your family in English
  • read stories
  • play silly games
  • listen to music

 

The lesson outline

  1. Students begin by only listening to the first minute (Ouissal’s introduction) and answering questions about this.
  2. Students predict the tips that they think Ouissal will give.
  3. Students listen and take notes about each tip, with the teacher stopping the audio after each one for students to compare their notes.
  4. Students discuss their own own ideas about how to learn English.
  5. Finally, students listen again and focus on Ouissal’s pronunciation of words beginning with ‘th’ and compare her pronunciation to their own. They discuss questions aimed at raising their awareness of the variety of different accents in the world, and that ‘different’ does not necessarily mean ‘less clear’.

You can download the student worksheet here  and the teacher’s notes here.

More links

Ouissal’s other videos on YouTube could also make interesting lesson plans, including:

katybannernew

 

Coming soon to Barcelona…

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If you’re planning to be in Barcelona this weekend and can make it to the Innovate ELT conference, don’t miss Laura’s opening plenary on Saturday morning (7th May 2016, 9:30am)!

Here’s the full abstract:

In addition to conversation, jokes, poetry, songs and other enjoyable everyday things, language is used to make money, exert power and assert ownership. But can a language really belong to anyone? English is used by millions of people around the world – but exactly whose language are we teaching?

Hope to see you there!

laurabannernew

Going to IATEFL 2016?

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Birmingham_Logo_webHere’s our annual round-up of the talks which – according to the information in the official conference programme – appear to be related to pronunciation/listening for ELF, or ELF in general.

Oh, and by the way – Laura will be attending this year’s conference, so look out for her! We’re always happy to chat about issues surrounding pron teaching and English as a lingua franca.

Wednesday 13 April

10:40-11:25 – Hugh Dellar (Hall 1) – English futures: retooling teaching for tomorrow’s learners

It’s not super-clear in the programme how ELF-oriented this talk will be, but the abstract reads: “As a global lingua franca, English is seen as a vital ’21st Century skill’. However, the real future needs for English will be at the high proficiency end and the low, with little need in the middle. This raises questions about our inherited 20th Century approach to teaching grammar rules and word lists. I aim to unpick these thorny issues.”

12:35-13:05 – Hassan Qutub (Hall 10a) – Arab EFL teachers: foreign accent strength and pronunciation corrective feedback

The abstract for this session reads: “This talk aims to present some parts of a doctoral research work in progress. I, the researcher, have looked at the relationship between EFL teachers’ degree of foreign accent and their perceptions of accented speech. I have also investigated the relationship between Arab EFL teachers’ degree of foreign accent and their views of providing pronunciation corrective feedback in the classroom.”

We’re curious to see how the researcher defined and assessed the “degree of foreign accent” of the teachers in this research.

16:00-16:45 – Rudi Camerer & Judith Mader (Andante) – Cultural concepts and language: progressing from EFL to ELF?

At last year’s conference, the room for Rudi Camerer’s talk was completely packed, and it seems they’ve given him a marginally bigger room this year (70 people capacity). The abstract for this session in the conference programme reads: “Is English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) really a language without cultural roots? And will using English globally always be successful, as long as both parties speak it “well”? There is empirical evidence to the contrary. What does this mean for the teaching (and testing) of English? Practical examples and teaching suggestions for written and oral communication will be given.”

16:00-16:45 – Maria Parker, Carson Maynard & Brenda Imber (Hall 10a) – Assessing intelligibility: teacher-friendly materials and activities

The conference abstract for this session acknowledges how problematic the notion intelligibility is, given that it is so dependent on who is speaking to whom. And of course, a major focus of this very blog is the fact that native-speaker listeners are increasingly unlikely to be the judges of L2 speakers’ intelligibility in today’s world. So we’re a bit disappointed to see that the speakers in this session nevertheless focus on “NS audio models” to assess L2 speakers’ intelligibility.

Here’s the full abstract: “Intelligibility is “a moving target, depending on the interlocutors … and other elements of context” (Levis 2010). Yet teachers must provide actionable recommendations and measure student progress. Using a free web resource featuring NS audio models of high-frequency lexical bundles, participants will assess selected pronunciation features of NNS recordings, compare responses, and discuss how to curate provided materials to their own settings.”

Thursday 14 April

12:30-13:00 – Lewis Lansford (Hall 5) – The world’s language: using authentic non-native input in the classroom

This speaker looks likely to cover a topic we’ve also blogged about – using authentic recordings of proficient L2 speakers in class to help learners accommodate to a wider variety of English accents than the native speaker varieties which typically feature in coursebooks. (Here’s a post Katy wrote featuring numerous TED talk videos, and here’s another post Laura wrote featuring a lesson plan to follow to develop learners’ ability to understand different accents.) The abstract for this session reads: “Globally, the majority of English-language conversations don’t involve a native speaker. Using TED talks by non-native English speakers, this session will explore these questions: What are the teaching implications of English as a Lingua Franca? How should we approach non-standard or ungrammatical input? What materials prepare learners for real-world communication?”

17:25-17:55 – Robin Walker (Executive Room 2) – They don’t do Scottish accents

Robin’s work has greatly influenced ours, and we’re happy to see that he has a session focusing on accents and variation in pronunciation in this year’s conference. (We’re less happy to see that the room only has a capacity of 50 people! Do IATEFL really predict that this session will be so unpopular?) Here’s the full abstract: “When you are learning a new language, the last thing you want to have to deal with are different accents. Or is it? Accent variation is the reality of living languages, and this is especially true of today’s globalized English. This talk explores how we can deal with accents in the ELT classroom. Or should we just stick to RP?”

17:25-18:30 – Marek Kiczkowiak, Christopher Graham, Burcu Akyol & Josh Round (Hall 11a) – Forum on “Tackling native-speakerism: NNS, recruitment, teacher training and research perspectives”

Though not strictly about ELF or pronunciation, this forum is likely to cover topics of relevance to this blog. Here’s the full abstract: “Native speakerism is the belief in the inherent linguistic and instructional superiority of native speakers (NS). It leads to discrimination of non-native English speakers (NNS) in ELT through unfair hiring policies. This presentation addresses this problem from NNS, recruitment, teacher training and research perspectives advocating an ELT industry which values qualifications, experience and professionalism over a teacher’s native language.”

Friday 15 April

11:00-11:30 – Dita Phillips (Executive Room 7) – I’m a non-native English-speaking teacher — hear me roar!

Like the forum above, this talk doesn’t seem to focus explicitly on ELF or pronunciation, but it does cover relevant and related areas of thought. The abstract reads: “How do non-native English-speaking teachers see themselves? Is ‘nativeness’ an issue teachers worry about? Could this impact on their development? What can teacher educators do to combat the native/non-native speaking teacher dichotomy and empower non-native English-speaking teachers? This talk will offer some answers based on the presenter’s experience with pre- and in-service teacher training courses.”

16:50-17:20 – Sheila Thorn (Hall 8b) – NESs write and speak English perfectly: exposing the myth

Another session that’s not strictly about ELF or pronunciation, but addresses the unrealistic, unhelpful and unnecessary nature of comparing native and non-native uses of English: “There is a perception amongst non-native teachers of ESOL that NESs have a perfect grasp of the English language. I shall demonstrate that this is definitely
not the case using authentic recordings and written texts. In light of this evidence we shall discuss whether teachers put themselves and their students under too much pressure to speak and write English perfectly.”

Saturday 16 April

9:00-10:10 – Scott Thornbury (plenary session, Hall 1)

Scott will be offering a critical history of ELT over the past 50 years, including questioning the notion of Standard English and suggesting the possibility of “re-configuring EFL/ELT/ESL/TESOL as simple LE: language education.”

10:25-10:55 – Tatiana Tkacukova (Executive Room 9) – Assessing language proficiency in English as a lingua franca

The abstract for this session reads: “The talk discusses the implications of the research into English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) for language proficiency assessment and the provision of English language teaching. The materials analysed draw upon video-conferencing sessions of international students from two European universities. The analysis shows strategies used by students with various degrees of proficiency for effective communication in ELF.”

11:10-11:40 – Yumi Hato, Katsunori Kanzawa, Nic Underhill, Yasushi Tsubota, Haruhiko Mitsunaga (Executive Room 7) – Developing a CBT speaking test of ELF

The abstract for this session reads: “This presentation reports on the development of a computer-based speaking test at Kyoto Institute of Technology, designed to assess university students learning English as a lingua franca. The evolution of the test specification, format and rating scales will be discussed, focusing on its secondary aim of creating positive washback for the teaching and learning of English in the ‘expanding circle’.”

One thing that strikes us when compiling this list is the low expectations IATEFL seem to have regarding interest in ELF. For example, the rooms for Saturday’s talks can only accommodate under 50 people (only 20 people in Executive Room 9!). The exception is Lewis Lansford’s talk on Thursday. It will be interesting to see how many people attend this session!